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My last post about Apple was quite withering. Furthermore, I often poke jabs at Apple. It thus surprised a lot of people when I announced my next computer would probably be a MacBook Pro. Does this mean I’m inconsistent or changed my mind? Hardly.

What I dislike about Apple

Just to clarify a bit what I meant in my last post, what I dislike about Apple is not their products. Their products have immense qualities. They also have their flaws, as I pointed out. What I dislike with a passion is blind fanboyism, the fact people blindly assume everything Apple does is just perfect. It’s not. I also dislike Steve Jobs. And I certainly disagree with the constant Microsoft bashing that Apple fanboys enjoy so much, because I believe Microsoft to have delivered outstanding products, and to have actually raised their quality levels in recent years.

My last post aimed at demonstrating that Apple is far from flawless, and that some humility on the side of Apple lovers would be welcome. But Apple has some very appealing products indeed. Here’s why.

Bringing sexiness to IT

If there’s one single fact nobody in their right mind could disagree on regarding Apple is that is that they have mastered the art of making a computer look good. They were the first ones to aim at that, and nobody comes close to their current results – even though PCs have become much less ugly as a consequence.

Seriously, how gorgeous is the current iMac line?

Picture of the very sexy iMac

Remember, this is the full computer, no ugly grey box attached under or upon your desk. Furthermore, the quality of the screen is astounding. Interestingly, by the way, the entry-level iMac is a good bang for your buck, even compared to a similar PC set-up.

The same beauty exudes the laptop line, Macbooks.

But it’s not only the devices that look nice. The operating system, Mac OS X, is also built towards pretty in lots of ways, from useless but pleasing eye-candy such as the animations that go with minimizing a window, to pretty ways of fulfilling a function such as the pleasing animation that highlights the dock icon currently active.

 

Samples of how Mac OS X does “pretty”

 

The drawback of this is that sometimes beauty has trumped functionality. This is most infamously the case with Apple mice, which look good, but are consistently less comfortable to use from an ergonomics point of view than other companies’ mice.

Quite touchy

I don’t care much for the iPad and other “non-computer computing devices”, but even in the realm of pure computers, Apple absolutely leads the pack in the area of touch input. Case in point: the wonderful touchpads sported by Macbooks, and the very natural implementation of multi-touch that Apple has brought to them. No other touchpad in the industry even comes close to being as comfortable and useful as Apple’s. So much so that the Magic trackpad Apple has started to sell for desktops actually starts making sense to me. And I’m a guy who never uses the touchpad on my PC laptops.

Niftiness as an art form

For the various reasons I explained in my previous post, I don’t buy the “attention to detail” argument. Apple can screw up on details and even big things, just like any one else in the industry. However, it’s true they consistently come up with nifty little features the likes of which are seldom seen in other products. I’m not going to list all of them, but just give a few examples.

On their Macbook pro line, they have this very nice little way of seeing how charged the laptop is, even when it’s turned off. Just push a little button, and LEDs light up to tell you how much battery you have left. Very nice for checking whether you need to take a power chord with you or not.

The battery charge indicator on a Macbook pro

Another nifty feature, on OS level this time, is installation and removal of programs. Installing a program is as easy as copying one file in your application folder. Removing it is as easy as dragging it to the trashcan. Easy, comfortable.

Active screen corners is also a very nice idea. Basically slam your mouse into a corner of the screen, and depending on how you configured it, an action will automatically be carried out, such as showing your desktop, showing your widgets, putting your computer to sleep, etc. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

At application level, iTunes does a nice bit of nifty too. Select a song, and click on genius playlist, and iTunes will build a playlist of similar tunes. Very nice.

The list goes on really. Lots of nifty little features which, taken separately, aren’t game-changers, but as a whole make for a very pleasant experience.

Apple ’nixed it

One of the best ideas Apple ever had for Mac OS X was to give it Unix roots. Mac OS X is basically a Unix since it’s POSIX compliant. Lots of good things entail. It gives the OS the kind of stability you can expect from a Unix system, and the relatively strong security credentials that go with it. Contrary to popular belief, there can be viruses and malware for Mac OS X, but between the inherent security of a Unix system and the relatively limited user base, chances are quite slim you’ll encounter any.

It also means that if you are the geeky type, you can mess around in the same way you would with a Unix, with a command line interface and everything. 

SMB friendliness

Apple products can still remain a headache for large enterprises, when compatibility with enterprise software can be an issue. But for SMBs, Apple products can be a very smart choice.

SMBs have fairly limited software needs. And what needs they have are very well addressed. Regarding productivity software, iWork is actually a very good suite. While less powerful than MS Office, it allows non specialists to make very professional looking documents with outstanding looks very easily, with less effort than MS Office. This allows an SMB to create great looking commercial presentations, mailings, invoices, proposals etc. without needing the help of an external designer. And this comes at a fraction of the price of MS Office (roughly 80€). It’s compatible with MS Office, but as so often, if you use either’s advanced capabilities, you might come across some formatting issues.

iWork Numbers templates

No sweat, MS Office is available on Mac too, and marginally cheaper than on PC.

Even in the area of more specialized software, there are some great products available. Merlin is a great project management product, that is arguably superior to MS Project (as often with Apple oriented products, it might lose out a bit on advanced functionality, but over-compensates with ease of use and stunning looks).

Of course, depending on your business, you will need to check that what you need is available on the platform.

In a nutshell

Perfection is not of this world, and Apple is no exception. Apple products however have many qualities. In many cases, these can justify the premium you need to pay to purchase most Apple products, if you have the budget available. Are Apple products “better” than PC equivalents? No. But depending on your needs and tastes, they might well suit you a whole lot better.

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